Energy efficiency, particularly in buildings, should be a front-running strategy to address European energy security, according to a report by the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP). Realising Europe’s Efficiency Pipeline makes the case for treating energy efficiency as a “pipeline” that delivers reliable, cost-effective services, just like a natural gas pipeline delivers the fuel service for heat and hot water.
“Although energy security is one of the five pillars of the Energy Union, the solutions set forth by the Commission focus primarily on supply-side options, such as diversifying the sources, routes, and suppliers of gas,” said Edith Bayer, author of the paper and associate at RAP. Bayer cautioned that “while these measures are important to improve energy security, they largely ignore the potential for energy efficiency to reduce overall dependence.”
Buildings in Europe account for about 40 percent of overall energy use and more than a third of natural gas use, offering a significant opportunity to reduce energy bills and reliance on imported gas. Bayer recommends considering buildings as an energy resource that can be weighed against supply-side resources in policy and investment decisions.
Two key recommendations will help the Commission deliver Europe’s “efficiency pipeline.” The first aims to get rid of natural gas distribution companies’ “volume driver,” which currently discourages them from saving energy. Member States are already removing this disincentive for electric distribution companies under Article 15.4 of the Energy Efficiency Directive, and establishing a similar provision for gas distribution companies is consistent with Article 40 of the Natural Gas Directive.
Bayer also recommends that Efficiency First principles should be applied to cross-border planning and investment decisions, which could reduce or delay the need for additional infrastructure investments.
Finally, a shift to treating buildings as a dynamic part of the energy system will provide a secure and affordable alternative to supply-side options. This shift will not happen overnight, but strengthening policies currently in place such as the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, and complementing them with further mechanisms, is a first step.